Reusse: Gobert deal nears worst-trade territory for Timberwolves

This was the early 1980s and Danny Ainge was at a table playing cards with Boston Celtics teammates Kevin McHale and Larry Bird. In the humor of the time, Red Auerbach, then the Celtics' general manager, made a habit of needling Ainge about his Mormon faith.

So, at the sight of Ainge being at a card table and cash being exchanged, Auerbach said to Ainge: "You can't be playing cards with these guys. Isn't that against the code of your faith?''

To which Ainge looked up immediately and replied: "Red, playing cards with these two guys isn't gambling.''

Dan Shaughnessy, former Celtics beat writer and long-serving Boston Globe sports columnist, provided this anecdote and also the punchline: "And 25 years later, Ainge proved his advantage, taking away Kevin Garnett from McHale, and immediately winning the NBA title.''

The trade occurred on July 31, 2007, and to celebrate nearly the precise 15th anniversary (July 29, 2022), Ainge showed no deterrent in his devout upbringing to prevent robbing the Timberwolves both going and coming.

Ainge sent Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair and two future No. 1s to the Timberwolves for Garnett.

The No. 1s turned out to be Jonny Flynn and Wayne Ellington, with the decision to draft Flynn over Steph Curry in 2009 falling on David Kahn, McHale's replacement with the Wolves.

Ainge departed the Celtics after the 2020-21 season and then joined his home-state Utah Jazz in mid-December 2021.

Which was unfortunate for Minnesota's NBA franchise, because it's apparently a hard addiction to break — rebuilding a franchise by whispering sweet nothings to a Timberwolves executive.

This time, Ainge was the basketball boss for the team receiving the ransom, not the recipient of the star player. He also was dealing with the Wolves' sixth chief basketball officer since negotiating the first heist with McHale.

Tim Connelly, lured here through the pleadings of owner-to-be Marc Lore and $8 million annually, was on the Wolves job for seven weeks when he acquired Rudy Gobert, a 7-foot-1 center, 30 years old, and known for defense and rebounding, from Utah.

The foursome of players already in the NBA sent to the Jazz were not the issue. Out of Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Leonardo Bolmaro and Jarred Vanderbilt only Vanderbilt would be valuable to still have around.

Heist No. 2 was validated on Monday afternoon, when a Target Center crowd was able to see what 7-footer Walker Kessler had to offer halfway through his rookie season.

Kessler was Connelly's first draft choice, No. 22 overall, and also was included in the trade — a "project,'' was the speculation.

As it turns out, Kessler is way more progressed than anyone imagined — particularly anyone with the Wolves. He's pretty much what Minnesota hoped it was getting in Gobert, and making seven (7) percent as much money.

On Monday, Kessler played 31 minutes; he was 9-for-13 from the field and had 20 points, 21 rebounds (nine offensive), four assists and two blocks.

A main reason Kessler didn't have more blocks in Utah's 126-125 comeback win was the Wolves stopped challenging him.

Late in the game, even Anthony Edwards veered off on what he intended to be a trademark drive — the lefthanded finish — when he saw the menace of Kessler near the basket.

Gobert had missed six of the Wolves' 45 games entering Monday, and he left after five minutes because of a sore groin, which presumably assisted Kessler's dominance.

No matter. I'm sticking with this piping hot take: Everything being equal other than age, Ainge wouldn't take Gobert even for Kessler.

And there's a little more than one-for-one for the Jazz:

They get the Timberwolves' first-rounders in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 (that one's top-five protected). They also have the right to swap picks in 2026, by when the Wolves should have a strong mathematical chance in the lottery.

Charles Barkley was in the TNT studio Monday and apparently watched enough Kessler moments to offer this opinion: "The Timberwolves made the worst trade in NBA history ... That was so stupid, that trade.''

This could be a slight exaggeration, considering it might be only the second stupidest trade the Wolves have made with Ainge.

And I hope Mr. Ainge can sleep at night, knowing as he does that the Book of Mormon is very clear on thievery, stating:

"He that stealeth and will not repent shall be cast out.''

How could Ainge possibly claim repentance when he did it to us again?